Monday, January 26, 2009

The Mute Counselor

In December when I went through the second round of pre-deployment medical evaluations, I was officially a "No Go" because of the shoulder surgery on October 30. I was assigned a No-Go Counselor who said it was her job to "get me through the process of clearing the No Go and getting me ready for deployment." She sounded like a customer service rep.

And she was. Until last Tuesday. That was the day the surgeon who did my shoulder surgery examined me and said I was good to go. He then filled out an Army form saying I was ready to pushups, swimming, carry 48 pounds of gear, etc. At that point, my No-Go counselor became my No-Talk counselor. Once she confirmed she had the form from the surgeon, she said I could not ask about my Go, No-Go status.

What? It turns out Army regulations prevent them from discussing actual decisions on status. What else WOULD I want to talk about except my status with a No-Go counselor?

So this morning I put on one of my best suits and went to the Army Medical Records office at Fort Indiantown Gap. My youngest daughter went with me. It is her 18th birthday and she wanted to get a military ID card. She was also very well dressed. The sergeant at the service window took my information right away. He confused me with a Colonel Gussman. To be fair, he did continue to help me when he found out I was a sergeant, not a colonel.

He said they would call back today. And they did. It turns out the Army form I sent was not enough, they needed another piece of paper. By a very good coincidence, when my No-Go Counselor called, I was at my Physical Therapy appointment, in the same building as the surgeon's office. I went straight to the surgeon's office keeping the counselor on the phone. The surgeon's admin assistant was in and willing to get me the document I needed while the counselor was on the phone.

A half-hour later, I called the counselor back. She said she thinks she has the right piece of paper now and just needs to get a doctor to sign it off. She also apologized profusely, but Army regulations prevent her from discussing the status of my case. She did tell me there is one sergeant's major on the entire who is authorized to discuss my case. She gave me his name and suggested the full-time folks at my unit contact him.

So as of now I am still a No Go and waiting for a doctor's review.